Maple Leaf Cap

Art by Jasmin Small

Years ago I lost

my maple leaf cap

in the lake.


I dived deeper than ever,

feeling less and less human

in the lake’s little twilight zone,

only metres deep but fully expecting

creatures from books to shine

through the blackening water.

As the light left me,

my lungs throbbed coldly,


and fear forced retreat.


I was distraught. Teasingly,

lovingly, older relatives

made things up:


An old nymph,

a known thief

this side of the lake,

had stolen my cap,

thinking it a vessel

of what I was,

hoping to gain

some of my youth.

She gripped the cap

and prayed, but the wrinkles

only continued to blossom.


Sold, the cap became the property

of goose grandees or the plaything

of drunken bears or the crown

of Canadian Crusoes

at midnight mountaintop revelries.


In my dreams, the saga went on:

after a storm, the thing spent 

an autumn up a tree. The marvel 

of the season, it barely escaped

the iconoclasm of beavers,

for whom the faux-fur maple leaf design 

brought to mind the fur-mad butcher men 

of their past. Furious,

they made beaver history

by building a dam up a tree,

but history was spoiled

by the wind.


Such was my fancy;

and when ants did donuts

on the car window,

I saw Herodotus’ giant ants

carving out the mountainsides,

and wondered why

whoever made the myths

forgot the ants

who carved Alberta

into dappled towers,

amphitheatric not just

in size and shape but more

in the way faces grin from the rock,

short-lived characters won and lost

with the changing of the light,

webbed into each other,

Siamese cast members

forming real-time Rushmores.


I was young:

a sudden distant glint

was not just a car,

but the desperate Morse

of lost Americans

imprisoned by a cabal 

of cursed bipedal moose;

howls at bedtime

were not wolves

but wolf-nursed

wild men of other centuries;

the angry bear reported in the area

was not just hungry or rabid

but a woman willed into a bear

by revanchist treefolk sorcerers,

mourning her lost breasts,

fumbling to approximate

the opposable thumb,

stirring potions, buying

caps containing humanity.


As the rental car grumbled

toward S Half Diamond Ranch,

perhaps wanting to stretch our legs,

but more likely because

we understood that

the winner would

briefly become a man,

the right to jump out

and open the gate

was squabbled over

by me and my brothers

with the wide-eyed whirl

of the brawling dragonflies,

heralds of the Canadian summer.


At that age,

I often thought about

a school project where we

tagged plastic teddy bears

and mixed them back into the bowl:

the easiest way of counting.

You could capture and release 

a thousand blue dragonflies

and never see one you tagged:

for they’d sped away

to join their confreres

at the noisy nodding logs,

lounging midair at happy hour,

forming secret dragonfly societies,

I supposed, loving and hating

each other before dying

after two weeks in little graves

near the shore, abdomens

thinning into twigs,

wings whitening into petals;

or expiring on the water

and drifting into the night 

like war-weary Vikings;

except for the dragonfly

which died on me,

who my brothers

and I honoured

with a proper funeral:

daisies propped in the dust,

reeds looped into an arch,

a libation of pink lemonade.




Yesterday, I jumped into the lake

with the nostalgia of the nymph

and the recidivism of the nymph

and the perseverance of giant ants

carving mountains and the hardihood

of the faces at the Banff amphitheatre

and the frustration of the bear woman

and the ambition of bickering brothers

and the insistence of dragonflies

who won’t stop being reborn

from twigs and petal,

and, ignoring 

what books say 

about underwater creatures,

I dove far down and scratched

at the spot from eight years ago,

and, sure enough, rising hugely

from the ancient mud,

disturbing the quiet life

of the seaweed, creating

little avalanches over my fingers,

the long-lost maple leaf

is brought to light,

its colours restored

by the silent pillars of sun,

and the hat and I rise

smiling to the surface.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.